A Somerset Way
Minehead to Bath, 123 miles
Part 3 of the End-to-End Walk from Land's End to John O'Groats


This walk is not an official long-distance path, but is a contiguous series of local footpaths and bridleways that together link the Somerset Coastal Path, at Minehead, with the southern end of the Cotswold Way, at Bath.

The route is based largely on a publication by rambling enthusiast Laurence Main, who brough this path into being as a walk across the county of Somerset. He does not appear to have conceived it as part of a larger whole, even though it links two obvious national trails. You are certainly encouraged to look out a copy of his booklet, which is published by Thornhill Press of Cheltenham. The route, composed as it is of various local footpaths, lends itself to a good deal of variation and you are encouraged to tinker with my (or Laurence's) route as much or as little as you wish.

Somerset has a curious topography. It consists largely of broad areas of coastal plain at or near sea level (the Somerset Levels), divided by lines of low hills running generally in a northwest - southeast direction. The most obvious hill ranges are the Quantocks (a superb range of heathland tops giving fine walking) and the Mendips (a limestone escarpment that carries its own official path, the West Mendip Way). There are others, notably the Brendon Hills, outliers of Exmoor.

The route traverses several of these hill ranges. Indeed, I deliberately introduced an otherwise unnecessary dogleg to take in the Mendips and in particular Cheddar Gorge, arguably the scenic highlight of this walk. Most of the other changes I made to Laurence Main's original route were to keep the hike within hill country. You do, of course, have the option of folowing the paths across the Levels if you wish. Although it's flat country it is very lush, and you do have constant views of the hills and woodlands all around.

The scenery is generally pastoral, apart from the heath and forest country of the Quantocks and the Brendon Hills. You're in farm country and will find yourself predominantly among crops and livestock. Take heed of the Country Code; take care not to cause harm to plant or animal life and avoid damaging fences, gates or farm machinery. Keep to the paths. And take care with gates - be sure to close them securely after you.

The route does, of course, traverse through several of Somerset's main towns. We visit Taunton, the county town; Wells, a delightful cathedral city; Street, a major shoe-manufacturing centre; and Glastonbury, a place shrouded in myth and legend and spiritual home to every ageing hippy in Britain. And of course the route terminates in the elegant Georgian city of Bath, a former Roman spa in a magnificent setting.

A word about footpaths. National trails and long-distance paths are well maintained and suitably waymarked, but local paths can be a different matter entirely. If you've followed the narrative of the Devon Coast-to-Coast route you will already know the problems. Basically, paths that exist on the map will not necessarily do so on the ground. If you pick out a series of paths on the map and then attempt to follow them, you will come to grief once every two miles on average. Landowners and farmers treat the path network with contempt. You will find crops, hedges, fences (wooden, steel and electric), and barbed wire blocking the route. Field boundaries the path is supposed to follow will have disappeared, making navigation difficult. Sometimes there will be situations in which the path is not actually blocked but could simply never have existed in the first place. And occasionally the blockage will be deliberate.

I've routed the path away from such difficulties wherever possible but of course individual situations change from year to year, and even from month to month. I am shortly going to implement several revisions, largely adopting new trails, that should make the route shorter, easier to follow, and more enjoyable to walk. Some details:

Upcoming Revisions

Walk 2 (Dunster to Bicknoller): will largely adopt the Macmillan Way and will run north of the present route, via the town of Williton.
Walk 3 (Bicknoller to Taunton): will follow the Macmillan Way and then the West Deane Way, most of the latter running southwest of the original route.
Walk 4 (Taunton to Langport): will run north of West Sedge Moor instead of south, running via a hill ridge and then the Parrett River Trail
Walk 5 (Langport to Street): will be simplified and shortened and will run via Dundon Hill instead of Great Breach Wood
Walk 6 (Street to Wells): the second half of the walk from Holt Farm onwards will adopt the Monarch Way to Wells, cutting out Pilton and Croscombe.

These revisions will be officially adopted once I have had time to walk and photograph them, which hopefully will be during the summer of 2008. The table below has been updated with the new route mileage information.


Wilderness country this isn't - the route passes through, and close to, plenty of towns and villages. There are few youth hostels but you will find an adequate supply of B&Bs, guest houses and small hotels. You might like to follow my example and plan the route as a series of day hikes, using public transport hubs as a base - this allows you to carry just a day pack and saves you a lot of effort (Somerset is a hilly place, despite the Levels). The most obvious bases are Minehead, Taunton, Street, Glastonbury, Wells, and Bath itself. Buses services can be sparse or nonexistent on Sundays and bank holidays - check with the local Tourist Infomation office for up-to-date information.

There are no natural hazards in Somerset, apart from mud. You may meet a lot of this. Farms tend to be naturally muddy places, besides which much of the county is low-lying and is prone to floods. Several of the "green lanes" which look so promising as walking routes on the map turn out to be impassable, knee-deep watercourses. You would be advised, therefore, to avoid tackling the route during or soon after wet weather. July, August and September would be best.

The various one-day walks that make up the Somerset Way:

(Click the links for the individual walk indexes and photo galleries)
1 Minehead to Dunster 4.23 miles
2 Dunster to Bicknoller 12.44 miles
3 Bicknoller to Taunton 15.51 miles
4 Taunton to Langport 16.0 miles
5 Langport to Street 12.0 miles
6 Street to Wells 13.78 miles
7 Wells to Cheddar 11.14 miles
8 Cheddar to Temple Cloud
12.36 miles
9 Temple Cloud to Bath 14.08 miles


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Devon Coast-to-Coast Back to main index Cotswold Way

This page last updated 20th January 2008